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Pinky Placement ?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by powermans, Nov 23, 2003.

  1. I'm at a point in my playing where I'm trying to tackle some pretty fast runs eg:- "Oleo" and similiar tunes with this amount of required technique. At a slow speed I can get every note clear and sounding correct however, as I move up the tempo, the fingers (left hand) don't seem to want to keep up the pace.
    I have noted that when I force my finger into a right angle (left hand) at the strings so that the tip of the finger is at 90 deg to the string(in other words up against the fingernail) I can develop more speed.(however, doesn't feel comfortable) Up till now, I have had a tendancy to generally finger the string with the flatter part of the finger. I 've watched numerous D/B players on DVD on this matter and it seems to vary widely. I wonder if some of you might comment on your fingering position and the reasons why?:meh:
  2. I say definately use the end of the finger. Otherwise you can't get as much tone, and collapsing the joints in the 'flat finger' method is pretty much considered bad technique from everything I've been taught. I've been playing with the completely arched finger style for a long time now, and I can tell you that when you first start it does hurt. But once you build up those callouses, it's much better. Plus I think it builds more muscle in your left hand/ arm so you can ply longer with better tone. From what I can see I feel it's a better technique for you body overall, because it helps keep everything in line and relaxed so you don't risk developing problems win joints and muscles.
  3. I try to stay as close to the tip as possible. The problem being, is that there ain't alot of meat on the tips of your fingers, especially the pinky.
    My first be-bop type line I went for was Scrapple From the Apple. Pretty effective when played in unison with tenor.
    When copping some of these be-bop lines, I feel you need to make a decision about articulation. I like to try to make the line sound as close to a horn as possible. Other guys like to articulate every note, using more fingers on the right hand if they have to.
    Learning to use the fingers on the left hand as a way to "bend" the notes is a very important aspect of my playing, which comes directly from Red Mitchell. In other words, using the right hand fingers to apply the first attack on the string, and then the fingers on the left hand to continue the "slurred" notes of the line as far and long as possible. This legato way of playing is, very horn like, once you get use to using the left fingers more.
    There are some excercises you can make up to strengthen the fingers of the left hand. Again trying to use less and less plucked notes and making the sound continue more and more by using your left hand fingers.
    This is not for everyone...some prefer the more percussive approach. Comparing two great players, for instance, imagine Scott LaFaro and Red Mitchell both playing the same be-bop line. In my mind Scotty would really articulate every note no matter how fast. Red, on the other hand would tend to flow more.
    I'm not sure whether i've done you any good, but the left hand finger excercises might, at least strenghten your pinky!
  4. First of all, it's tough to give any advice without seeing your hands, since everyone differs in shape and size. One of these threads has a link to MPEGS for LH technique.

    It seems to me that the middle and ring fingers, being longer, require a more pronounced arch, and therefore should contact the string more on the tips. Index and pinky fingers require less of an arch, which results in a contact point more on the flat, meaty portion. I would think a right angle for i or p is pretty severe, but again I'd have to see your hands. For me, keeping 1 and 4 less arched allows me to achieve enough stretch between them to accommodate the whole step in lower positions

    Since it's speed you're concerned with, make sure none of your fingers are flying off of the board. You want to keep everything nice and compact, minimizing any excess motion. When you're playing 1st finger, the other 3 should stay as close as possible to the string, and the spacing ratios between each finger should remain consistent as you shift positions.
  5. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I gotta dig up which old bass player it was -- maybe Milt Hinton -- who scoffed at the idea of using the tips of the fingers instead of the fat flat. He wondered how you could get any kind of decent tone with those boney tips....

    I know you're talking speed and articulation here, but I'm gonna stand up for fat tone and I get it easier mushing the string than mincing it.
  6. Thankyou all (so far) for your input,it would seem that we're a little divided on the flat pinky in place of the pointed pinky.
    What I'm looking for is an answer to :- Gaining more speed and, does the finger tip over the meaty part of the finger give you more speed.

    Keep em coming!:D
  7. hmmm, but if you think about it, using the fatty part of your finger is kind of like having a bridge made of rubber. You're just absorbing the vibrations instead of transmitting them to the bass...
  8. Once you've done the things suggested, it's on you. T makes one really good point..keeping everything compact and ready to fire, not letting your fingers stretch out in between notes so you have to bring them back in. That Scotty clip we've all seen is amazing...he lets his fingers fly out and has to bring them back in. This was when he was out in L.A. so i'm sure he changed things later. Point is, once you've decided to play on the tips or more on the meat, that's it. Those micro-measurements between those two places just aren't gonna make that much difference. You're grasping here man.
    The only other issue is vibrato. I like a little vibrato when soloing once in a while. I know you're talking jazz here, but I think most classical players will tell you it's easier to get some, the closer you get to the tips.
  9. The vibrato thing is a good point too; vibrating on the fatty pad is only going to squish that fat around instead of moving the actual string contact point...
  10. Paul, I'm kinda glad you said that the Micro distance between the tip and an 1/8th of an inch into the pad is going to make LITTLE difference. Since I kicked this thread off I have been taking more notice of placement and, after I get into maybe half an hour of practice I've taken a close look at the tips of the pinkies ...after all, it's easy to see where you are placing the Pinkies just look for the grooves. Now, I have noticed that on the First Finger I'm nearly on the tip however, 2nd & 3rd are more on the flats and finally the little finger is back on the tip or close to the tip!

    After all that I think I'll live with what I'm doing and look closer at what T-Bal has said in regard to picking up speed....Further to T- and his finger positions etc... Tell me , to get speed on a difficult piece, do you guys just keep repeating the line over and over and overrrrrrrrrrr again from a slow speed and try to get it !!!! finally up to where it's suppose to sit? Or is there another method I don't know about?:meh:
  11. Powermans, you said you were working on Oleo? Are you working on the melody or that counter line that most bassists play ALA Paul Chambers? I think starting slow and working up to tempo is best. As I said I like to play Scrapple for one. With that, I just copped the line right up at a pretty fast clip. Lo and behold, one night some tenor player called it at a more medium tempo and I couldn't play the damn thing! I learned I was playing it so fast, I was sluffing a few notes! But the biggest thing I learned was...I was playing the line just to show off! This is a pet peeve of mine the EGO! To me it's a very dangerous thing, because bathing in your ego and playing stuff to just show your chops is not about music it's usually about you. I'm not saying you're doing this, just try and make sure you're doing it for a musical reason not as a grand-standing show-biz trip.
    But, if you start slow, you're making sure you can play it as a ballad if you have to! Just joking! Oleo is not very good as a ballad! Well maybe....
  12. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    The way you're asking shows that you already have the answer which is nothing special but plain common sens: it's better to identify the rough points which are slowing you down and work on them. Which shift, which string crossing, etc. A game my teacher showed me consists in forgeting completly the rythm of a given passage and play every other note the fastest you can and the other note rather slow, and then switch-a-roo. Another idea I got from Donausaurus who suggested to name the shift before playing it. I am sure we'll get other exercises from the board. Anyway, no receipe, just thinking your practice. And practice, practice, practice... over and over and overrrrrrrrrrr again :smug:
  13. My two bits:

    Find what's comfortable for you, as long as you're not locking the knuckles, maintain some amount of bend at each joint.

    I find when playing up a fourth across strings, it's easiest to start more on the tip and 'rock' the finger more onto the pad. This becomes more of a 'slide' than a 'rock' as I get farther up the neck and the strings get farther apart. Conversly, when going down a fourth across strings, I try to flatten the finger slightly so I start out more on the pad and rock across the strings to the tip. I find I get a cleaner sound and more sustain to the first note when taking this approach, rather than having to jump from string to string with the same finger. Easier to do with the index and middle fingers than with the pinky.

    Paul, you talked about the Red Mitchell approach:
    Are you talking about hammer-ons, pulloffs and glisses here?

    Vibrato:- Gotta get up on the tip more so you're rolling the finger up and down, effectively changing the string length. For me, flattening the finger on the pad results in rotating it around the stop point and not really producing much vibrato.
  14. A little bit of all of the above, but ending up as triplets.
  15. Just to be contradictory, I studied vibrato with cellist Harry Sturm, and his (and subsequently MY) modus operandi for a rich-sounding vibrato was to avoid the tip and get as *much* of the fingermeat on the string as possible. Turn the finger at an approx. 45-degree angle (by slightly turning the wrist). Difficult to describe w/o the benefit of demonstration, but it works for me.
  16. Yeah Mike, i've seen/heard some great soloists do this, actually almost pointing the remaining three fingers out in the air to get a really heavy duty rocking motion with the pinky.
    But, in terms of playing pizz jazz lines, ain't no time for that.
    But for arco and general solo technique, your cellist friends approach sounds great.
  17. OK Paul, on "OLEO" I've gone straight for the throat! I'm playing the melody with the my piano player until we hit the bridge and I'm walking from there! It's a great tune to keep you awake!
    I must be honest and tell you that I/we've stolen the arrangement from "Kenny Drew Live at the Brewhaus".....GREAT DVD!!!! It's just that I'm not quite up to NHOP's standard...but hangin in there!
    Another line which is a mother of a thing to get sounding clean ....it's at the end of "Roxanne" of the "All this Time DVD" Sting. McBride does a beautiful run of 16th's on the ending chorus. I'm still trying to get that crisp also.Anyway, it's great to have a challenge!
    On the Vibrato and the 3 fingers standing vertical off the fingerboard , I've seen that from different players also and wondered WHY ....is it for looks or is there something in it? :meh:
  18. Right, Paul. It's a great technique for playing in an emotive bel canto or romantic style, and it really has to be toned down when applied to baroque or to jazz. (But Stephane Grappelli was able to use this kind of vibrato to great effect.)

    Yeah, to get the pinky really rocking, I let the first three fingers fly around a little bit, generally with the index still touching the side of the fingerboard for a bit of control. (Ah, hell, I just do if for show --- audiences LOVE it!!!)

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